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Four One One

Suudi: The man who brings the stars

American rapper Rick Ross (L) with Suudi.

Link Man: Suudi Lukwago has booked several stars to Uganda and other parts of the world. Edgar R. Batte spoke him.

You were on the scene as a music promoter then you disappeared, what have you been up too?
I only disappeared in Uganda but I have been working elsewhere. I wanted to associate myself more with international artistes. I only come out for big deals with a minimum of $50,000 (about Shs125m), so if we are not talking those numbers then you are definitely not going to see me. I also own a construction company in the US and I do money lending, so I have been busy.

You also changed the name of your company from Suudi Entertainment to Suudiman. Why did you have to change the name?
Suudi Entertainment was more focused on Ugandan talent and I am now more of an international booking agent.

Under Suudi Entertainment you managed singer Henry Tigan and lots of words went around about your break up, what really happened?
Nothing big happened, we went separate ways. Tigan is a son and will always be a son to me. I invested over Shs500m in him, not to mention the international collaborations I helped him get with big artistes like Kevin Little, Brick and Lace, Marlon Asher and I even have a song Here I am that he did with Shaggy that I have not released.

Are you still managing any artistes today?
That chapter is closed for now, but maybe in the future, yes.

What are your thoughts about Uganda’s music industry?
Artistes are a lot more focused locally and I feel like they should also be focusing more on an international level.

What does it mean to manage an artiste?
It is a 24 hour job that I would not recommend anyone else to do unless they are ready for sleepless nights and a lot of sacrifice.

You have been responsible for bringing some big names in music to Uganda … list me some of them?
R. Kelly, Brick and Lace, Kevin Little, Marlon Asher, and not just to Uganda but I have also taken big artistes to other parts of the world like Rick Ross to Ghana, Shakira to Egypt, T-pain and Chris Brown to Nigeria and Rihanna to South Africa.

How do you contact these artistes?
I do my deals the old school way. I meet the artistes face to face and agree on the deal, shake hands then I cut the cheque.

How easy or hard is it to contact artistes?
I have been doing this since 2001 so I have made connections from all over the world be it jazz, country, reggae or even hip-hop.

What is it like being around or working around international stars?
It is fun because I’m used to most of them but like any other business, there are ups and downs, especially with new artistes.

What are the downs?
Big international artistes charge high performance fees.

Then where do you get the money to finance such international shows?
I am a booking agent and according to my record, I maintain a good reputation so my money comes from major companies. These companies trust me because I have managed to build a good relationship with them.

You are responsible for bringing in Busy Signal for a concert on December 6, what was it like getting in touch with him considering many local promoters have tried getting to him and failed?
Originally Chris Brown was my first option but due to legal troubles, he could not make the trip at the given dates so we postponed to April next year. I was already in the mood to do something for my home country Uganda this year, so when a friend told me that promoters in Uganda have been trying to book Busy for years but had failed, I went in and secured a deal in 24 hours.

How much did you pay Busy Signal to get him to accept to perform in Uganda?
I cannot give you the exact amount but his asking price is between $60,000 (about Shs150m) and $100,000 (Shs250m) for a two hour full band live performance.

Is Busy Signal open to any music collaboration with local artistes?
Yes he is open to the idea. He will be in Uganda for another three days after the shows, before he heads out to Zimbabwe were I helped secure him an endorsement deal.

Of the artistes you have brought in or helped bring into Uganda, who has been most expensive and for how much did you get them?
R. Kelly and it was more than $1m.

Who is Suudi Lukwago away from the music promoter?
I am a loving father who likes to spend time with his family.

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